- As we look ahead to 2023, the push towards healthcare consumerism continues to grow, fueled both by healthcare influencers and patients.
- From bringing the hospital to the home to the quest for longer and more quality lifespans, we see a stronger focus on better health and wellness.
- IEEE SA will continue to help the global healthcare and life sciences ecosystems achieve a more accessible, secure, and trusted offering.
As we transition from the acute phase of the global pandemic in 2022, one of the world’s most essential industries – healthcare – remains in the spotlight.
In this sector, we have seen the development of innovative technologies to meet the ever-changing needs of patients, the increased use of telehealth, consumers taking more ownership of their personal and mental health, and the rising cost of healthcare around the world… But one thing remains certain: we will continue to see innovation in technology and tools to accommodate new demands and gaps in the industry.
As we look ahead to 2023, the push towards healthcare consumerism continues to grow, fueled both by healthcare influencers and patients. Healthcare consumerism can mean different things to different people but for patients, it is the ability to demand transparency, access, and trusted quality of care. With the decentralization of healthcare delivery, patients are equating their expectations of healthcare service to the level of customer care found in the retail experience, especially when the burden of rising healthcare costs comes directly out of the patient’s pockets.
New technologies and advancements around the world are moving the concept of healthcare to a more personalized and convenient element of our lives: our homes. From bringing the hospital to the home with remote wearables, robotics, and extended reality tools to the quest for longer and more quality lifespans, we see a stronger focus on better health and wellness.
With an eye on 2023, we reflect on several advancements in healthcare and life sciences while also noting major trends for the coming year.
1) The Rise and Related Challenges of Healthcare Consumerism
Healthcare consumerism is a term that was first introduced back in the 1930s, but the more recent growth in sentiment is due to the global shift towards value-based care.
Value-based care follows a similar principle found in the consumer retail experience: linking payment for care delivery to the quality of care provided, which thereby rewards providers for efficient and effective service. Essentially, we are more willing to pay for something if we know we will get value out of it. This shift in reimbursement models for healthcare delivery is contributing to the rise in healthcare consumerism.
Today’s patients are more educated about medical terminologies, diseases, and approaches to disease prevention and maintenance. They are more motivated to take charge of their health by adhering to better lifestyle choices, maintaining “preventive” care screenings, and being more informed about public health. With this newfound education and motivation comes the demand for transparency, trust, and access to their health data. Similar to retail experience, they want what they pay for and that includes access to their health data and the ability to transact it for better health outcomes. All of these dynamics are shaping the future of healthcare consumerism.
In support of this change, ongoing technological advancements are enabling patients to have a different experience and control of their healthcare outcomes. The increased reliance on telehealth and mobile health technologies is giving consumers more choices on when and where they want their health administered with on-demand responses. Meanwhile, the use of distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) is driving the move towards decentralization and incentivization for patients to access and manage their health data.
The rapid innovation of these technologies enabling the growth of healthcare consumerism also comes with its own challenges. Many of these innovations come in the form of mobile health technologies and telehealth service platforms and are still relatively young. Therefore, the more they are utilized the more we learn about the challenges. As consumers of healthcare technologies, we expect to trust that these technologies work as they should while still protecting our privacy and data security. These challenges will need to be addressed if we want to realize the full potential shift towards healthcare consumerism which heavily relies on transparency and access to trusted quality of care.
2) The Rise in Bringing Hospital to the Home
The concept of “hospital at home” is technically not new but, like telehealth, at-home hospital-level services became a necessity for all health systems when beds filled during the first surge of the COVID-19 pandemic and to reduce patients’ exposure to the virus by keeping them home whenever possible.
Hospitals saw that the “hospital-at-home” model could work with connected thermometers and pulse oximeters that enable patients to be monitored and cared for by clinical professionals while eliminating the angst and cost of being in a hospital. With some success of this model during the pandemic, could it be adopted across the board?
As a result of the rapid growth in the space and success of hospital-at-home programs, McKinsey estimates that within the next three years up to $265 billion worth of care services, which totals about 25% of the total cost of care, could shift from traditional facilities to the home – and without a reduction in quality or access.
There are many diseases and illnesses which still must be treated in a hospital setting. But with technological advancements, many illnesses can be monitored at home. Advances in remote patient monitoring (RPM) and remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) allow doctors to receive near real-time data on patients’ blood pressure, heart rates, blood glucose levels, and their reaction to therapeutic delivery devices. The monitoring of these vital elements, especially for chronic disease patients, alleviates the burden of frequent hospital or doctor’s office visits. Instead, these technologies are conveniently designed for either the patient and/or caregiver to implement after which the data immediately begins transmitting back to the clinical provider.
Receiving care at home instead of at a hospital can dramatically reduce costs while also improving the patient experience. But there can be challenges notably in infrastructure, accessibility, and feasibility. Consumers must be cognizant of proper power consumption and battery life for these technologies, stable internet connectivity in the home, and data and privacy protection. System reliability is critical; devices must always be powered and connected to ensure continuous real-time monitoring.
Efforts to improve patient experience and reduce burden on the healthcare domain resulted in the advancement of technologies and tools to support rapid onboarding of telehealth systems use. Increasing patient adoption of care delivery outside of a medical facility or office is fueling the ability to transition more complex forms of care to the home despite the unresolved ability to ensure patient data security, privacy, and transparency.
3) Longevity Technology
The global life expectancy appears to have declined by 0.92 years between 2019 and 2020 and by another 0.72 years between 2020 and 2021, but that decline seems to have ended during the last quarter of 2021.
Uncertainty about its exact size aside, this represents the first decline in global life expectancy since 1950, the first year for which a global estimate is available from the United Nations. The decline between 2019 and 2021 may be in part due to the number of deaths related to COVID-19, although rises in other chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer and suicide rose during the last decade as well.
In the search for the ageless living, the question begs: why do some people live to 105 and others cannot make it past 60 years of age? Longevity technology, combined with scientific research, focuses on enabling people to live longer with better health and wellness. For the last few decades the term “preventive care” has been used to motivate patients to engage in yearly physicals, cancer screenings, and other better wellness activities not necessarily always to prevent the disease but to get ahead of it.
With a global aging population outpacing younger generations igniting concern on how the elderly can be adequately cared for and the overall desire to defy aging, the new race in healthcare has begun. Saudi Arabia has placed a $20-billion longevity biotechnology bet with its Hevolution Foundation and they are not alone; the United States Pentagon released its own research report on longevity technology opportunities.
Longevity technology has now become the new race in healthcare. Unlike the current use of digital technologies designed for monitoring and maintenance, longevity technology seeks to create a fundamental paradigm shift from treatment to prevention. It seeks to take technologies that simply monitor to ones that monitor and offer insight. Using digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and wearables, and biosensors in combination with scientific advancements in genetics, environmental, and physiological research, the world’s experts are seeking how they can improve longevity and quality of life.
The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) is hosting an on-demand webinar series that discusses using robotic caregivers and companions to support the aging population.
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In 2022, we saw many changes and developments in healthcare and life sciences that shaped technological, economic, and social innovation. Moving into 2023 and beyond, IEEE SA will continue to help the global healthcare and life sciences ecosystems address existing and new opportunities to drive a more accessible, secure, and trusted offering.
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